Marsden Hartley Revisited, or, Were We Really Ever There?

Painting has become definitely masculine at last, mechanistic in its purport.

Marsden Hartley

IN A WAY, IT IS not surprising that Marsden Hartley has left such a twisting, curling, and at times indistinct wake in American art literature. He was, after all, an erratic follower of styles, the painter of such diverse pictures as Portrait of a German Officer, The Lost Felice, Fisherman’s Last Supper and The Wave; he fell easily under influences ranging from a kind of synthetic Impressionism (the “Segatini stitch”), through Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism and Dada. He traveled widely and, to make matters worse, he wrote. As a man, he was a worrisome, contradictory cuss; at the outset he practiced beating his provincial (or regional, or American) head against a wall of sophistication, and in the end he exorcised his worldliness by butting skulls, again, with his native soil. The Hartley legend,

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